Online interview with Donovan: canarias7 (Spanish)
Camping on Atlantis(by Ayoze García)
The legendary Scottish singer-songwriter tried to build a connection between 60s idealism and 15-M demads with his music.
Donovan Leitch never was the most politicized singer-songwriter in the 60s (nothing wrong with that) and, instead of calling for protest, his lyrics used to give off a fantastic and, on occasions naif, charm: not for nothing he wrote whole albums dedicated to children songs.
Nevertheless, his performance last Thursday at the Alfredo Kraus auditorium, part of the festival Arrecife de las Músicas, the legendary Scottish singer-songwriter tried to build a connection between the hippie movement idealism and the current 15-M demands. It was during the introduction to Universal Soldier when he stated his support to the "revolution" that is happening in Spain although, in his opinion, it is needed "a new poet" to put music to people's thoughts.
It's not strange for Donovan to miss the social resonance that folk and rock had decades ago, but nowadays it seems easier to condemn the International Monetary Fund than expect a massive resurrection of author song. After saying this, we take note of his good intentions.
The concert started with about 50 minutes of Donovan accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, showing his folkie and purist side. It was the perfect moment to appreciate his outstanding guitar technique which (as it has been remarked in countless occasions) was so admired by the Beatles.
However, the audience only brightened up when, in the second part and after the rest of the musicians joined him, they played his most memorable hits: Catch The Wind, Colours (at the auditorium entrance they handed out a sheet with the lyrics for the audience to sing along), Jennifer Juniper, Sunshine Superman, the caribbean excursion There Is A Mountain, the psychedelic Hurdy Gurdy Man... only Lalena seemed to have aged poorly, or maybe it was due to the excessive prominence of Trevor Knight's keyboard during this song.
The band of veteran Dublin musicians, which included a bass player, a guitar player and a drummer, was generally correct and not taking away Donovan's prominence, who also played Season Of The Witch and Mellow Yellow, as well as an encore with "the only song" that could end this concert: Atlantis. And why? Well, because, as he said, Canarias is for him the ancient Atlantis. I told you he is prone to fantasizing...
One more thing: Donovan is 65 and it would be unfair to ask him to have the same voice he had when he was a young lad. What can I tell you, it didn't keep me from enjoying his performance. And, since we're at it, he looks better than someone I know...
Translated online interview (with questions from the readers):
The singer Donovan, called "the British Bob Dylan", answered questions from our readers on this online interview on Canarias7.es.
Donovan Leitch stars in the second concert of this IX edition of the Arrecife de las Músicas Festival at the Alfredo Kraus auditorium, postponed last May due to the Icelandic volcano eruption and its effect on aerial navigation. Last week he played at the Royal Albert Hall in London and next Thursday he will be performing at the New Hall of the Alfredo Kraus auditorium, at 9pm.
Q: Do you know the "indignados" [outraged] movement? What does it remind you of? (angels)
A: I'm very happy to be in Atlantis. It's the moment in which people have to protest because people is the nation and not the government, actually.
Q: I was in the Isle of Wight Festival. What did you feel playing there? Was it the best festival? (Vengador de Mentira)
A: It was excellenct playing in that festival. Festivals are very important for me because there are many people together in those events, celebrating the season and the young ones go to meet in that festival. It is spring, right, and people get together to listen to music and meet.
Q: Good morning, I would like to know how was the concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Thank you very much. (Lola Pérez)
A: It was the most special concert of my life and it was a celebration of Sunshine Superman. It was a dream for me and my wife Linda, very happy to be able to do it again.
Q: You were one of the icons of the Flower Power generation and your music inspired the 60s movement. What do you think of the indignados movement of 15-M that is happening in Spain? (Tinerfe Marrero)
A: Actually, the new age of Aquarious is about this, about communication and global conscience. The nation is formed by the people and not the governments and it always need a poet to truly transmit the people's feelings. Whenever there's a major change, it is poets who have to transmit the people's feelings. Where is your poet?
Q: What do you offer to your fans in Canarias? Can you tell us something about your concert? (Al)
A: I'm going to sing my greatest hits and also an acoustic part. I'm accompanied by a group of four musicians from Dublin and the concert will be one half acoustic, only me, and another half with the band, and maybe I will sing two new songs.
Q: You are of a certaing age and experienced, how long will you be on the road? (Paul)
A: Forever. My songs will survive me because they express true emotions of humanity and I am one of the first poets of the age of Aquarious.
Q: Of all the songs you have played, which one is your favourite and why? (Leonor de Aquitania)
A: A difficult question... I play different styles, so maybe I have a favourite, but from 5 different styles. From the acoustic style, it would be Isle Of Islay. Rock, Hurdy Gurdy Man. Children songs, Mr Wind and Pop would be Sunshine Superman. From the classic style, the song would be Legend Of A Girl Child Linda.
Q: Who do you admire of your contemporaries? And of the young ones? I'm talking about musicians, of course. (Priscila)
A: I love singers-songwriters, and from my times I like Leonard Cohen, Ray Davies... nowadays I like REM very much and there's a band from Manchester called Radiohead that I love. Of the new writers, David Gray is very good.
Q: Could you tell us anything about your work with producer Rick Rubin on the album Sutras? Would you work with him again? (Sergio)
A: It was fantastic working with Rick, he understood perfectly the essence of the Donovan song, which is guitar and voice, and we shared moments of meditation. At fist it looked as if he wanted to fuse Donovan with pop, but we finally decided to keep it in an acoustic format, and I would love to work with him.
Q: What will you offer us in your concert at the auditorium? Can you tell us if there will be any surprise? (loli)
A: I answered this before, thanks.
Q: Did you know Canarias? What do you think about it? Greetings and happy to have you here! (Fernando)
A: It's a pleasure for me, nice to meet you. Of course, these islands are very connected with me through Atlantis. This is my first visit and when the concert is done I will study the islands ancestors. I want to get information about the natives. It is not casual that I'm here now. Atlantis could be in Cádiz, or in the Atlantic Ocean around the islans, or maybe in Canarias, I realized these 3 possibilities in the last 3 months. In fact, oceanographers believe that they have found a new location for Atlantis, and besides, the Japan tsunamy tragedy makes my visit full of sensations, because Atlantis ended with a tsunami. So my trip to these islands is full of feelings, and that is what I feel being here for the first time.
Q: What do you think of the Alfredo Kraus auditorium? (Perilla)
A: I still haven't seen it...
Q: Was Sutras your best album, the one with which you are more satisfied? (Franfri)
A: I think my most important work was Sunshine Superman, because it's like a herald, and one of the great things that happened with the movement from bohemian to pop through music in the 60s was meditation, which the Beatles and me brought to Europe from India, so you could say that Sutras is part of Sunshine Superman, as a grandson is part of his grandparents.
Q: What is your inspiration when you write? (Pepita)
A: In the tradition of ancient poetry, it's the muses. The creative ocean is inside the artist and everyone, but you have to learn how to fish ideas from it, and for this you have to learn many ways, and when you practice them, new songs appear, and to that ocean is where you go when you are meditating. It's the fourht level of conscience, the fourth dimension and every writer will tell you that songs simply come to you, and you have to learn how to give shape to what comes out of that ocean, transform it into a song. These are the secrets to creativity, we don't do it, we only create the circumstances so this can happen.
Q: I love to see you working, for me you are a legend. What do you think you have contributed to the history of music? (Chris)
A: The answer is curious: in the future they will listen to my music and they will say that Donovan played between the notes, which means that the use of silences in music is the big secret. It's not easy to be simple in art.
Q: Thank you for coming to Gran Canaria. What do you do to look so young? (Alfredo)
A: Meditation. Meditation revitalizes your cells and although you still feel anger, frustration... you don't keep those feelings. Keeping the negative feelings is what makes you old and meditation lets you conquer fear, it's the power of the world's future. Every child will meditate in the future if the world survives.
Q: What guitar is your favourite? Do you name them? (Fátima)
A: My most recent guitar is called Kelly and it's green, I ordered it for Sutras and I finally didn't use it because she was very young, only six months old. She was created by a luthier from California called Danny Ferrington. During Sutras I used another guitar called Zemaitis, which is a Greek name although she is English. They also calle it Blue Moon because she's blue with stars and a crescent moon. This guitar was 16 years old when we recorded Sutras and that's why Rick Rubin chose her, because she was of age. I also have a new Danny Farrington guitar which I call Atlantis, but she's only eight months old so she won't be used until next year. The shape of this guitar is a pyramid and the colour is aquamarina like the ocean and she is inlaid with pyramid-like nacar, like Atlantis, and two dolphins. The bridge is like an old Greek ship because some people think that Atlantis was in Greece, but Atlantis was in the Atlantic Ocean.
Q: Knowing you interest on ethnic music, do you know something about music from Canarias? Thank you for coming to Gran Canaria. (Cambao)
A: I want to buy something while I'm here. Traditional and old music. Maybe there's a musician very famous in the islands who plays that kind of music.
Thank you very much for your questions, they were very interesting. See you at the concert. You can find more information about me in my website and any information you have about Canarias natives, you can post it on my Facebook.
· Before Universal Soldier Donovan expressed his support for the "Spanish revolution" although he said a "new poet" is needed to put music to the thought of people.
· Before Atlantis he said that, for him, Canarias islands were ancient Atlantis.